Originally posted September 23, 2009
Our Grand Tour of Italy, Part 2
No, not the movie (though you could see posters, calendars, T-shirts and other paraphernalia that featured Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn everywhere). The real thing. On the next leg of our grand tour of Italy (after Sicily), my husband and I spent five glorious days in the Eternal City. And, IMHO, Rome not only met, but exceeded, my best expectations.
How to describe Rome? Big. Bustling. Scenic. Ancient. Modern. Magic. Fabulous.
Any of these superlatives could apply.
You could also say it’s dirty, as Italians seem to have a disinclination to throw trash in receptacles available for that purpose. (Sicily was even worse. I forgot to mention that in my last post on this.)
The climate and landscape around the area is (logically enough) Mediterranean. It’s reminiscent of Northern California — one of my favorite places in the U.S.
The drivers (car and scooter) are as crazy as everyone says they are. (The Sicilians still have them beat, though.) Even so, you put your foot in a crosswalk, and they WILL stop for you. This was amazing. And another interesting similarity to California.
The similarity kind of ends there. Sort of.
For one thing, everyone in the country smokes. Seriously — everyone. But all the indoor venues were smoke-free. So that was cool. Even so, walking through Rome (and other parts of Italy) was like stepping into a 1940s movie. All that smoking. And throwing the butts on the ground, preferably away from the trash to keep from lighting it off.
Another point about Italy: clothing. People wear good clothing. I’m not talking fancy, necessarily, but even the casual clothing was tailored and made with high-quality, attractive fabrics. I’d look at almost anyone and say, “Damn. They look good.” Then, I’d look at myself and say, “Damn. I look like sh*t.” I’m no fashionista, believe me, but I’ve developed a new respect for the notion of buying good clothing.
And, of course, the food was off-da-frackin’-hook. We started our mornings with cappuccino and a pastry. Perfect. And would you believe that, down the hill from our hotel, there was a McDonald’s that had a breakfast deal — one cappuccino and your choice of brioche for .90 (that’s Euro cents, of course, which comes out to roughly $1.35 or so)? So that was our breakfast place. (Beat the hell out of paying inflated hotel prices for the same thing and it was just as good, I’m sure.)
We ate and ate and ate — pizza, pasta, caprese sandwiches (tomato, mozzarella and basil on a roll — awesome!) wine, espresso. Gelato was pretty much a daily requirement — but we also walked and walked and walked, so no weight gain problems to speak of.
We saw the Colosseum and the Forum. We saw (despite my husband’s ex-altar boy and lapsed Catholic hesitations about doing so) the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican tour was nice (long, but nice, so it basically felt like a big build-up for the Sistine Chapel) and, once we got to the Chapel, it was amazing.
We took the subway to the Piazza del Popolo and walked down a main thoroughfare off which we were able to get to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (coins were tossed, of course) and the Pantheon.
We also did a reverse nighttime stroll from the Campo de Fiori (kind of an open air farmers market), where we had dinner, to the Piazza Navona, a gathering place where artists put their works on display (and where you can find a gelateria that sells something called a tartufo — the single most chocolate dessert I’ve ever had or hope to have).
From there, it was an easy walk to the Pantheon, up a hill to a highly regarded espresso bar (which, of course, I had to stop at), then on to the Trevi Fountain (more coin tossing) and the Spanish Steps. We climbed the steps and got a beautiful, panoramic view of the city at night. We also ran into two young women from New Jersey. It’s funny. We were getting so used to hearing people speak in Italian all around us, finding Americans was almost startling. But we had an enjoyable conversation with them.
One more thing we noticed in Rome. The cars (in general, all over Italy) are tiny. We’re talking Smart Car-sized, in all different makes and models, including American brands. (Ford Fiestas and Focuses were as abundant as Fiats, Mercedes and Audis, to name a few.) So when it came to parking, if you had room to stick the car in perpendicular to the curb, that was fine. It was the oddest sight, but a common one.
In short, I loved Rome. If you asked me which city on this trip was my favorite, I’d have to paraphrase Audrey Hepburn’s line from the movie referred to in my headline. Each in its own way was unforgettable — but Rome was my very favorite. I will treasure my memory of the place, always.
Next stop: Florence (or Firenze)